In July, thanks to my Golden Heart® final, I’ll be attending the 2018 RWA® National Conference in Denver. The conference will attract a couple of thousand romance writers, who are also romance readers. Because I’m planning to release my first books this fall, it’s time to think about swag for the Goody Room.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, swag are small, inexpensive items authors give away to publicize their work. (Also, apparently, it’s a new slang term for what used to be cool. The things you discover when you’re googling something else.)
- Stress balls (for squeezing)
- Lip gloss
- Emery boards
- Hand cream
- Micro-fiber cloths for cleaning screens
Last year, I did a volunteer shift in the Goody Room, refilling bins and baskets, which gave me an opportunity to really look at the items authors had placed there, and to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. So, what constitutes good swag?
- People pick it up.
What makes people pick up one item out of a room filled with other, similar items? It needs to be eye-catching. obviously, but it must also feel like it’s going to fill some need they have. Candy, particularly chocolate candy, appeared to work very well for this.
- People hang on to it for a while.
After the person picks it up, they also need to keep it, for at least long enough to have an opportunity to check out the book(s) it represents–probably till they get home from the conference. Candy is a consumable. No matter how much eye-catching, book-related info you put on the package, once they eat the candy, they throw away the package.
So, for retention purposes, something less ephemeral works better—basically, everything else on the list.
- It’s clearly branded so recipients associate it with you.
A friend who works in marketing suggested that having something that people will keep is less important than having something that’s so strongly branded it makes an impression.
As I’ve started to think about swag, though, I realize I will need a logo, too, that I can apply to whatever swag I decide to use.
- It prompts them to check out what you’re promoting.
The same marketing friend strongly recommended putting a QR code on the item that the recipient can scan with her phone. The QR code should link to information about your product, along with a buy link.
I plan to release The Demon Always Wins on September 1st. This means that, for my swag item and my QR code to have real value, I need to have the book set up on Amazon for pre-order before the conference. Is that possible? Amazon will allow me to load the book this up to 90 days before my release date so, technically, yes. The bigger question is, can I finish my last round of edits and get the book proofread, formatted, ISBN-assigned and loaded by July 15th?
Deep breath, Jeanne, deep breath. You can do this.
- It’s affordable, so that you’re not spending more on a single piece of swag than you’ll receive in revenue if the person buys your book.
The books are going to sell for between $.99 and $2.99 (I think). I view the money I’m spending on getting the first three books to market (website, editors, covers, etc.) as sunk cost. However, I plan to restrict what I spend on future books to whatever I make from previous ones, so it’s important to think about return-on-investment.
Even for a great opportunity like the RWA national conference, my unit cost needs to stay low. This rules out most of the items on the above list.
Have you ever given out swag items? What did you learn from the experience?